Welcome to the very first installment of The Walking Dead Deluxe: IN LIVING COLOR, an in-depth look at the rerelease of The Walking Dead comic series issue by issue featuring vivid colors by the incredible Dave McCaig!
After a shocking conclusion in TWD #193 that caught fans and retailers alike by surprise, Image Comics is treating us with an issue by issue release every other week retelling the now iconic series in full color. But before we dig into the very first issue once again and the events surrounding its conception as well as release, let’s first take a look at the context surrounding the retelling of this horror story in full color, because Image has some experience in this as a publisher for the series Bone.
What is the historical precedence of color within the horror genre however, and how has it impacted the way in which we engage with the scariest of stories? The Walking Dead might be an instant modern classic, but it only stands on the shoulders of true icons that came before it and the use of color truly broadens the scope of influence to help it become something more. It’s difficult to discuss the impact of color in horror without bringing up Hammer Films or “Hammer Horror” founded in 1934. Often credited as one of the most prominent forces in taking horror out of the black and white picture and into the modern color spectrum. With the release of 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein, audiences were treated to a usage of color that almost immediately left a long-lasting legacy in both cinema and many other mediums of storytelling. It added to the terror, pulled viewers deeper into the story and created an atmospheric mood that simply couldn’t be recreated in traditional black and white pictures.
But it also seemed to encourage a level of gore that most were not expecting, and this troubled the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification,1912) who described the film as “gruesome” with a “preoccupation with horror”. What could this mean for The Walking Dead Deluxe? A series released decades later yet still criticized by some for the very same reasons.
Robert Kirkman was admittedly heavily inspired by Romero’s legendary work in 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, a black and white independent horror film that essentially redefined the use of zombie’s in storytelling without actually using the word “zombie”. He delves deep into that inspiration for extra content in this deluxe issue as well. From inspirations as nuanced as Duane’s character being a nod to actor Duane Jones to the infamous coinage of the term “Walkers” to describe zombies, the impact of Night of the Living Dead is easily apparent. With the original TWD comic series utilizing the black and white format in a very similar way, the significance of a colorized retelling is undeniably important.
In The Walking Dead Deluxe #1, we find the very same pages that released in the original #1 issue back in October of 2003, showing a true care for not altering the story in anyway, but instead bringing it to life (pun fully intended) in a way we’ve never really seen before. It’s the spectacle of The Curse of Frankenstein brought once more before our eyes with all of the emotional intensity that Romero’s Night of the Living Dead inspired in Rick Grimes’ tragic tale. Kirkman reveals his own thoughts of the significance of utilizing colors in TWD in the final pages of the new issue, describing how they can have more of a punch especially in the violent sequences as well as how it can be more inclusive to new readers trying to make their way into comics and might be coming over as fans of the TV series.
But I think there is something more to it.
The Walking Dead achieved what most had deemed impossible. A little indie horror comic about zombies that most people honestly just didn’t care about quickly grew into a global phenomenon that promises to entertain for years to come. It’s one of the largest franchises in fandom today and unfortunately because of that, many might shrug off this retelling in full color as just a way to capitalize on the overwhelming popularity. It’s true there aren’t many comic series that could pull off such a feat, but releasing TWD in full color is also a testament to the evolution of horror and its power in storytelling. An exploration of the sincerity of the genre and how even a gruesome, vivid depiction of the most terrifying things we can imagine can somehow pull us closer together as humans.
Horror has always found a way to capture our imaginations, from the classic silent black and white stories to the fully colorized imagery that keeps us up at night even today. At a time when we face fears of a global pandemic and more, it might sound crazy to entertain the idea that a horrifying zombie story arguably made even more gruesome in color can be a source of inspiration for something better in the world, but maybe it’s not so crazy either. The Walking Dead Deluxe #1 pulls you into the frantic, terrifying apocalypse that Rick Grimes experiences firsthand deeper than ever before and in that process, better signifies our own struggle to hope for something more. It elevates the horror as well as the humanity and drives home the importance of our time right now with those we care about most. And it comes at a time when we’re all searching for inspiration wherever we possibly can.
Though created from the lost concepts of The Walking Dead: Cutting Room Floor and full of wildly interesting new tidbits of information for the most passionate TWD fans, even featuring new letters from Rus Wooton that bring a new level of professionalism to the first issues in the series, The Walking Dead Deluxe quickly proved that it brings so much more to the table than fan service. The incredible connecting covers, sneak peek at the scripting process from Kirkman, and so much more are just added benefits to the absolutely epic worked achieved by Dave McCaig on every single page. A revitalization of TWD in color work of this quality brings with it not just a spectacle for us all to sink our teeth into week after week, it cements the legacy of the series in the pantheon of iconic horror stories that can stand the test of time.
For longtime fans, this will be an experience that is both heartwarming and gut wrenching. For newcomers, it’s going to be unexpected and maybe even uncomfortable at times, but the reward is more than worthwhile. A chance to experience all of the addicting highs and lows of this wonderful story with such immersive details is something no fan of comics or horror should miss out on. I am obviously thrilled for the opportunity to explore this retelling with each new release of The Walking Dead Deluxe and will do my best to keep both new and longtime fans alike intrigued with my own thoughts and opinions. The first issue surpassed my own expectations from creative execution to the amount of insight provided in special additions and knowing what’s to come, we are truly in for a special experience.
Join me in the coming weeks as we dive deep into every new issue of The Walking Dead Deluxe and let’s set aside our differences and READ IT AGAIN, together.
The Walking Dead Deluxe #1: IN LIVING COLOR
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